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Don’t forget the oral cancer exam

July 1, 2005
I have bee a dental hygienist for 19 years. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen the omission of oral coancer and head and neck exams.

Dear RDH:

I have been a dental hygienist for 19 years. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen the omission of oral cancer and head and neck exams. We are not here only to save teeth, but we can save lives too! In the office where I work, we do oral cancer exams and head and neck exams at every visit whether it is a six-month or three to four month recall, or perio maintenance.

Unfortunately, I had the experience of knowing someone who suffered from the omission of this important exam. This is a patient who goes every three months for recalls. He had a pleomorphic adenoma, a slow-growing benign tumor of the parotid gland with the facial nerve running through it. This tumor usually appears during the fifth or sixth decade of life. It was detected by a client of the patient, a nurse. During a conversation, she noticed a growth appearing on his face. If it had not been detected, the head and neck surgeon said the patient would have woken up one morning with facial paralysis. The delicate surgery was 4 1/2 hours long. With the facial nerve running through it, there also was a risk of facial paralysis. The surgery also had to be followed by 25 rounds of radiation because this tumor can reoccur.

Please include this exam in your appointment. What you may be missing may have very serious consequences. We are here to save more than teeth. Many conditions can be detected in the oral cavity. We can save lives too! This all was very personal for me. This patient was my Dad! The dental office he goes to (he lives out of state) is now doing this exam.

Dawn McNamara, RDH
Matawan, New Jersey

Benefits of group practices

Dear RDH:

I was excited to pick up my May issue and see on the front cover that there was a story about group practices. As the director of dental hygiene for Midwest Dental - a group practice with 37 offices in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois - I could not have said things better! The statements made by Julie Thomas of Heartland Dental Care and Suzanne Decker of Aspen Dental Management Inc. summarize very well the benefits of working for a group practice.

I have been a practicing dental hygienist since 1987 and spent all but the last 15 months in “private practice.” After joining Midwest Dental in February 2004, I quickly realized how much more structured group practices are. We are light-years ahead of many in terms of developing protocols and training programs that provide assurances that our clinicians are all on the same page. This translates into a high level of patient care.

When I think about our periodontal protocol or the formality of how we deliver information on OSHA and Standard Operating Procedures (to name a few), I am convinced that this is an area where group practices excel. We are very focused on providing continued learning for our clinicians as well, and have the ability to build relationships with our corporate partners and leverage our resources to get the most current information and technologies out to our employees on a regular basis.

We have many doctors, hygienists, and staff who have longevity with our companies. The ability to offer good solid compensation, benefit and incentive programs provides stability that often cannot be achieved within a one or two doctor practice.

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As I continue to develop relationships with my new colleagues in the group practice environment, I can feel the enthusiasm and excitement about the direction that we are all headed. We use evidence-based decision making principles, we have diverse workforces, and we provide constant support for our doctors and staff. But the thing that I am personally most proud of in our group is our focus on the patient. “To be the professional dental organization that consistently exceeds the expectations of our patients and our staff” is the mission statement of Midwest Dental, and we are committed to that philosophy each day.

Tammy L. Filipiak, RDH, BS
Wausau, Wisconsin

Educate doctors about Dr. Donut!

Dear RDH:

Kudos to Shirley Gutkowski’s article “Dear Dr. Donut, I quit!” in your May issue. Every hygienist can certainly relate to at least one if not every real reason for “quitting” their hygiene job.

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This article should be sent immediately to ADA for inclusion in their dental journal. Of course, we know they would never dare publish it, and how sad that is. My next suggestion would be to send this to every dental school for inclusion in their publications or for use in a dental management course. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the new breed of dentists loved their jobs, and actually treated their staffs with respect?

Shea Shannon, RDH, BS
Melbourne, Florida

Educate doctors, part II

Dear RDH:

Wow! What a great letter of resignation from “Heidi” in your May 2005 issue (Shirley Gutkowski’s “Dear Dr. Donut, I quit!”). She sure hits the nail on the head of offices’ problems.

Well written. She did not hold back the punches. Unfortunately, all she said was true. I have worked as a dental hygienist in public and private practice. I have seen a lot of what she wrote.

Let’s hope a number of dentists see this article and learn from it. Not all are like the dentist in the article, but most have some of these traits or faults. We are not all perfect, to say the least. Perhaps with a little help and enlightenment, we can improve. I very rarely write in to any magazine, but this one had to be addressed.

Jean Buoncore, RDH
New Haven, Connecticut

Texas license is sure expensive

Dear RDH:

I am a registered dental hygienist licensed in Florida and Georgia (SRB). My husband is on active duty in the U.S. Army. A year ago we moved to Texas with the Army. Trying to obtain licensure here as a hygienist who has practiced for 11 years is very frustrating. I am required to complete a professional (PBIS) background check at my own expense of $400+, then pay $20 for study materials for the state jurisprudence, and $55 to take the test. Part of the PBIS includes about seven references, my birth certificate, copies of my board exams, and on and on. As if that is not enough, I will have to pay $490 to actually acquire my Texas license!

An option to obtaining licensure here is by examination, which means I’d have to procure a patient! I was told by the local college the credentialing would be less stressful and cost about the same! I empathize with the writer from Alpharetta, Ga. (Readers’ Forum, May 2005 issue). I am currently not practicing hygiene and miss working part-time. The laws do not make it easy for military spouses to continue their careers when they relocate. It appears as if the state legislatures have a money-making agenda, or why esle would we have to go through this every time we move?

Abbie Dyches, RDH, BA
San Antonio, Texas

About the Cover

The dog’s name is Bozley. But if you’re wondering about the woman, the name is Hannah Dulaney, RDH. Dulaney practices in the Atlanta cosmetic/dental spa office of Dr. Debra King, who also has appeared on the cover of several dental magazines.

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Dulaney is a native of Helena, Ark., and moved to Georgia to enroll in the dental hygiene program at Darton College in Albany, dropping out of the nursing program at Arkansas State University. “While going to school, I began working part-time as a dental assistant. I immediately loved the atmosphere and became fascinated with the field of dentistry. I decided to leave everything I knew, and pack up and move to Georgia.”

She graduated from Darton in May 2003. After a brief part-time stint in another office, she joined Dr. King’s Atlanta Center for Cosmetic Dentistry.

“I wouldn’t change my job for anything. It’s great to love what you do and the people you work with,” she said. “I have learned so much about the dental hygiene field and cosmetic dentistry and the lives they change every day with smile makeovers. It’s definitely different but a lot of fun, and I don’t know how I could ever go back to a regular office. I love it.”

In addition to Bozley, she also has Cooper, a cat.